Rae Ann Nicole Villafranco, US Marine Corporal, said she tried college and vocational school before deciding to enlist in the military.
Following graduation from San Benito High in 2013, Villafranco attended college for a year and then became a personal trainer. Still, her family tradition kept ringing in the back of her mind.
As the daughter of Valarie Sanchez and Rodolfo Villafranco, Rae Ann grew up in a military family, beginning with her grandfather Pablo Sanchez, who joined the Marines in 1969 and served two years, including a tour in Vietnam.
Following Pablo’s footsteps, his brother joined and served from 1975 to 1992, leading more and more family members to join the CORP. Still, none had been women, and this proved a motivation for Rae Ann.
Thus at 20 years old, Villafranco decided to apply for the Marines.
“Right away when I spoke to the Marine recruiter, I automatically knew,” Villafranco said. “I had the feeling, and I went to train with them for a couple of days, and the first day I said ‘Let’s get started.’”
However, the approval process took longer than a year, she said, because of her height. Being 4’9.5, she was five inches away from the standard, so she had to obtain a waiver proving her physical fitness. Coming from a weightlifting and cheerleading background, she was eventually approved.
Villafranco practiced cheerleading for 13 years and participated in weightlifting her last two years of high school, both years making it to the state level competition.
In 2012, her team placed 2nd at the state competition, and she placed 2nd her senior year as an individual in her weight class. In 2017, she became the first female marine in her family.
She was assigned to be an Ammunition Technician, providing ammunition for all weapons for those in training.
Villafranco was tasked with completing paperwork, counting rounds, issuing ammo, driving to ranges, and shooting.
She was stationed first in South then North Carolina, then Virginia, and finally in California.
Rae Ann is hitting four years with her contract on January 29 and decided to reenlist. She will train to be a Marine Security guard to serve in different embassies in different countries.
“I fell in love with the environment, the sense of pride that they have, how hard they worked, and the workouts we had. I decided to re-enlist. I look up to my family, but also for not seeing many females in the Valley, and I’ve always been up for challenges,” Villafranco said.
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